PIC Controlled Time Lapse Camera

8 year old unused video camera + PIC 12F615 = Time lapse magic

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Photography has always been an interest to me, even more so different or difficult shots.
So like my other projects this started out with something scrap, being put to a better use.

OK, so this one started about 3 years ago. I had an old digital video camera (that also takes stills). Unfortunately the maximum video resolution is 640x480 and stills are taken at 3MP, so not a lot of use by today's standards (my phone can do better). 

So after a bit of pondering, I thought it would be cool to make a time-lapse camera by remotely controlling the power and shutter functions. Unfortunately, after soldering in the necessary connections to the camera, I had no suitable transistors to earth the button pad (and activate it) and some of my connections broke off internally. 

At this point the project got shelved. 

After completing the LED projector, i found in it's project box some transistors that were surplus. So I thought it only polite to finish what I had started. 

I wont bore anyone with the circuit details (unless you really want them, if so let me know) but the little breadboard (yeah I like things old school) connects the shutter and power button pads, through their perspective NPN transistor to earth. The LED is just there to flash periodically, and provide basic status information. The power for all this is pulled from the 6v camera batteries.

The PIC is ICSP programmable (hence the little 6 pin header) allowing easy code updates to timing and similar. 

Programming the PIC was a doddle, using Great Cow Graphical Basic. If you are not familiar with it, I would recommend having a look. While I can write assembler, this would have taken me hours rather than minutes.

The flow code basically goes something like : 

- Wait 10 seconds after power up (just in case you didn't want it to start)
- Start Loop
- Flash the LED quickly for a few seconds to warn of impending photographic action (this is so useful if your'e about to pick the camera up)
- Turn the LED on

- Hold the power button for 2 seconds
- Wait 10 seconds for the camera to start (and for the flash to charge if needed)
- Press the shutter for 0.5 seconds to take a photo 
- Wait 20 seconds for the image to save
- Hold the power button for 2 seconds to turn off the camera
- Wait 5 minutes, flashing the LED once every 15 seconds or so
- End Loop

Fortunately the camera retains it's settings for flash and similar, and does all the heavy lifting / processing. As the system is only running the PIC during idle between photo's, the batteries last about 3 - 4 days and on a 2GB SD card, theoretically about 2500 images should be possible. 

Before I could use the camera, I needed something to protect the control board. I settled on a well fitting Kinder Surprise Egg toy container. Through which the LED can be seen.

So far I have run the setup for about 3 days looking at our local cathedral. 714 pictures make up the first short video.

The next question is, what else would look good time-lapsed?!

  • 1 × DV3000 Video Camera Old...
  • 1 × PIC 12F615 Very Cool, many features
  • 2 × NPN Transistors
  • 1 × LED & obligatory resistor For status Indication
  • 1 × 6v 50uf Capacitor The camera was causing a voltage drop on power on upsetting the PIC.

  • Box and Batteries

    ric86604/09/2014 at 15:00 0 comments

    OK, after rifling through the local Maplin £1 or less bin, I found 2 x Massive 6v dry batteries, at 50p each. Needless to say they were purchased immediately. After building a little header one of the batteries now connects to the PIC control board and powers the PIC circuit and the camera nicely.

    A bit of eBay bashing and I found a waterproof box, which with a small hole drilled, for the lense, and cable ties for the camera, now house camera, battery, control board and some foam to hold it all in place. 

    After programming the PIC to use 2.5 minute intervals, marking the box with "DO NOT REMOVE" and my mobile number, in the hope of avoiding theft (and bomb scares), late Saturday night I shimmied up a lamp post and strapped the unit on to record the local 10K run. I think the end result is pretty good, check it out in the links. 

    This is the first time the camera has been used in anger, and it worked nicely. I think the next test might come this weekend, I am thinking 30 second intervals (12 hour run time) and strapping it to the side of my C90 for a trip to Matlock and the Peak District. We will see how it fairs....

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Jarrett wrote 03/25/2015 at 15:33 point

Oh hey, I did almost exactly the same thing on-and-off again for a couple years.

It ended up working great, and then suffering a broken flex cable when I tried to fit it all in a chassis :/

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ric866 wrote 03/26/2015 at 06:49 point

Hi Jarrett, your build certainly looks a lot more full featured than mine (I didn't even use a regulator) flex into the camera was an issue for me too.  The first attempt it broke away from the board. Second time I heat glued it in place about an inch  down the camera. I managed to film the eclipse here the other day... Solar Obstruction:

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ric866 wrote 04/04/2014 at 21:01 point
I Like that idea... for now it's getting boxed up, so it can face the elements.

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Mike Szczys wrote 04/02/2014 at 16:54 point
You asked what else would look good for time-lapse. I think you should build a rig to move the camera.

Caleb did a very cool linear one using toys, a string, and an egg timer:

You can make a panning time-lapse rig using the string technique but you might not be able to do it with the egg timer (not sure it would be slow enough):

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